Friday, May 20, 2016

Those Weary Citation Blues

So, the Modern Language Association has just come out with a brand new edition. It's as if they thought, "Hey! We know our citation style is fine but, just for shoots and gaggles, let's have it marry APA and produce the ugliest baby possible." What followed is an abomination of nature/citation. In short, they're moving away from a prescriptive, rules-based citation style (because rules are repressive formalist thinking, a la Strunk & White) to a citation style that emphasizes the "rhetorical situation" of citation.  Basically, you have to have all the major elements (title, author, etc) in a set order, but everything else is apparently up to the citer. Which is all fine and well for practicing academics who already know the principles of citation, but try explaining this to freshman. It'll be a nightmare.

Anyway, here's an example of the ugliness. Actually, the new citation method for monographs isn't all that bad. We go from

  • Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.


  • Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford UP, 2011.

I can actually live with that, once I get used to it. The citation for articles, however, is where bibliographic putrescence regurgitates itself upon the stage:

  • Kinkaid, Jamaica. “In History.” Callaloo 24.2 (Spring 2001): 620-26. Web.

That beautiful, stream-lined style has now been whacked by the APA ugly-stick**:

  • Kincaid, Jamaica. “In History.” Callaloo, vol. 24, no. 2, Spring 2001, pp. 620-26.

Say whuh? The above combines all the virtues of a run-on sentence with the helpfulness of tedious distraction. Apparently, including all those abbreviations is supposed to make reading the citation "easier" under the assumption that, previously, it wasn't immediately obvious to people who cite texts for a living which numbers indicates the volume, issue, or page numbers. Now, when I was a kid . . .

**okay, technically, APA doesn't use the "vol." and "no." stuff, but I'm making a point here, so hush.

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